Why do some pieces end up being absolute favourites, yet you sense it’s not all about the beauty of the bauble? There’s something more.
Whether it’s the setting, the stone or the spiritual aspects, what jewellery caters to is our intrinsic needs…and who stocks it in Auckland?
Our local equivalent of Harry Winston, Julian is a bespoke jeweller and qualified gemmologist. His connection with soulful jewellery began when a piece sparked his career path at 16. “I was given a gold chain and I still wear it to this day,” he says.
Whether it’s the jeweller, the sentimental stone choice, the process in making it, who gave the gift, where they brought it from, what the occasion was, what achievement, or what the milestone was – it all adds up to why a piece of jewellery has soul Julian believes. You sense there is a bit of magic involved in turning a concept on paper into reality and a three dimensional object.
His workmanship is distinctive and has symbolism. A client’s beloved Chevrolet Camaro is the inspiration for one design. The wedding ring copied the car’s distinctive monochrome trim. The result was an alloy band of dark gun-metal gold with white metal. “It’s meaningful, subtle, yet soulful,” says Julian.
Another piece is a precious stone resting directly on the finger. “Thousands of years ago people gave mystical properties to gemstones. In this ring the powers of the stone touch the skin – so it’s like a satellite dish pulling in all of this energy.” A clever variation is the ‘tying the knot ring’ with two golds in a knot around a concealed ruby touching the finger underneath.
Blending precious metals with spirituality created the ‘prayer ring’. It’s a fusion of platinum and 22 carat gold. “A client asked if I could apply the technique in the form of a script. What you see around the band is a Hebrew prayer infused into the ring.”
All designs are one-of-a-kind by the bespoke jeweller, who uses a multitude of techniques. His dragonfly brooch won the People’s Choice Award in a national jewellery competition four years ago. It shimmies and shimmers, mimicking it’s doppelgänger from nature using European ‘en tremblant’ techniques to conceal tiny springs and miniature componentry.
The jeweller believes stone colour has soulful meaning too. “I just love white diamonds, mainly because of their symbolism — their purity particularly for engagements which is taken into their relationship,” he says.
As another option for clients, he’s the second jeweller in the country to stock Fairtrade gold in the three metals. It’s a vote of support for the artisanal miners that have less impact on the land by tunnelling compared to open pits he says. So it appears that pieces from Julian Bartrom Jewellery have both soul and a conscience.
Zora Bell Boyd
Her self-confessed obsession with stones that led to jewellery design started twenty years ago. Zora read an iconic book called Love is in the Earth: Kaleidoscope of Crystals. What followed was anthropology and ancient history study at university then furniture design at Unitec, where the joy of jewellery was discovered through an elective. “What you study is not necessarily what you do — making jewellery is a diversion from it all,” says Zora, who calls herself a bit of a magpie. Her signature style is heavily influenced by the positive side of humanity and the beauty of nature.
It starts with the stones she says. ”They’ve got a life of their own.” Next is the importance of the designer’s story that they’re imagining when they’re designing, Zora believes. ”Whether they relay it verbally or choose to leave it in the piece; they’re thinking about it. All pieces have a story, a feeling and people pick up on that.” She is a fan of mystical fables and linking iconography to her work. “If the superstition is true that silver has a memory, it remembers the maker’s story.”
Not one to openly reveal to clients the metaphysical and healing qualities of her gemstone pieces, Zora prefers to leave that up to the buyer. “They’re drawn to it. Occasionally people ask the meanings. I leave a little book in the drawer to look it up for them but we don’t label it.”
She does custom orders paring crystals and gemstones that work together for clients who want a specific stone or healing quality. “Requests are more true to what people really need. They intrinsically know.” The ‘seek and you shall find’ philosophy is more her preference. “If left to your own devices you won’t buy a piece that makes you feel bad, but you will when a sales assistant pressures you into it. Then it languishes in the box unworn,” she says.
Her designs have many links to ancient wisdom from Egypt and Greece. ”You see a lot of that in my work even to the extent where I’ve used larva from Pompeii and the Italian cameos.” She often reworks sentimental antiques and innovatively sets shards of pottery into new designs or fantastical creatures wrapped around antique coral.
“Nature is fabulous – its shapes, colour, design, what it produces. Man can try really hard to produce stones but they’re not the same.” Simple elements from nature are moulded into her work. Little sticks from Murawai were cast in her first collection of rings called Sticks and Stones. Jewellery is easily upcycled, so it isn’t wasted, she adds. “Reuse that silver, gold, stone — turn it into something soulful that you like.” Zora modestly believes she’s only the middleman between the stone and the client. Perhaps she underestimates what a powerful soulful connector she really is?
She hunts the world for crystals and gemstones based on their healing and therapeutic value for her Ponsonby Road store, Jewels & Gems. “That’s the foundation for this shop and it comes from a spiritual impulse. I don’t buy anything that doesn’t come from that basis,” she says.
Jewellery is also manufactured onsite at the store because Donna believes a lot of jewellery nowadays is fairly generic and mass-produced. “I don’t tend to buy a lot from others unless the pieces are exceptional and stand out,” she says. Having a unique quality with meaning behind the piece usually grabs her. Just like how she discovered Amrapali and handmade Italian jewellery, Ziio. “It was like a moth to a flame,” she says.
Amrapali looks sophisticated and feminine, yet Donna says the work embodies Hindu spirituality and culture. It’s no wonder actresses like Angelina Jolie and Kate Beckinsale are frequently snapped wearing it. “It’s refined, sophisticated, and feminine with spiritual and cultural influences – so that’s why I stock it,” Donna says. Many are constructed with antique pieces that are incorporated into the modern design. She points to handpainted little disks originally sourced from a former necklace or bracelet that’s been reconstituted into a spectacular centrepiece with semi-precious stones. “From that perspective it embodies soul and is deep and meaningful, not mass-produced and disposable for Westerners,” she says. The statement pieces are not ‘plain Jane’ and Donna says many fall in love with them for special occasions. “Even my own manufacturing jeweller came in and bought a piece.”
By comparison the Ziio cuffs are modern and bohemian, yet have a metaphysical and spiritual essence, I discover. The designs are even worn by royalty; Queen Rania of Jordan has been photographed looking stunning in a necklace. “All the stones you see woven into the tapestry of amethyst, lapis lazuli and turquoise have metaphysical and healing qualities.” A chance meeting with Elisabeth Paradon, the creator of Ziio, now connects Aucklanders with Tuscan artisans crafting fine pieces using ancient beading and weaving techniques with real stones. “It’s an absolute labour of love, yet people are being properly paid so it’s ethical and not made in a factory where women have to work for nothing.”
The Indian manufacturers Donna also sources from “are respectful old families running ethical businesses based on a Hindu philosophy about caring for others. For me that’s really important.”
It appears Amrapali and Ziio have struck a chord, with many from celebrities to fashion bibles and now Kiwis — proving that with a spiritual foundation you can be soulfully beautiful inside and out.
Words: Sarah Sparks